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How to Perfect Your LinkedIn Profile

Marsha, a resume writer and LinkedIn expert, believes your resume and professional image are the most important financial assets you have.

Learn how to perfect your LinkedIn profile to achieve "All-Star" status.

Learn how to perfect your LinkedIn profile to achieve "All-Star" status.

LinkedIn: It's Where the Professionals Go!

You may be thinking that LinkedIn is just another social media platform; however, it is so much more than that. We all spend so much time perfecting our Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat profiles. The profile pictures have to be just right; we play with the settings to ensure privacy is the way we want it; we talk about our kids, discuss our relationships, update our job statuses, and spend hours organizing the photos into neat albums when, in fact, we should be spending our time on LinkedIn, instead.

LinkedIn has over 600 million registered members in over 200 countries. These registered members are all professionals talking about their companies, seeking job candidates, and, yes, some members are seeking jobs. In fact, some companies only list their job openings on LinkedIn. If you're not on there, then you're missing out. If you're on there, but you haven't taken the time to perfect your profile, you could also be missing out.

The goal with your LinkedIn profile is to get it to what they refer to as "All-Star" status. To do that, you need a complete profile, recommendations, and at least 50 connections. It's really easy to do; I'll show you how!


How to Select the Best Name for Your LinkedIn Profile

As a former English teacher, I can't help but quote Shakespeare here, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Juliet didn't care that Romeo was from her family's rival . . . the house of Montague. Similarly, a hiring manager doesn't care that the name on your resume and LinkedIn profile doesn't match your birth certificate or driver's license. The focus is for your name to match across all professional documents. Consequently, your LinkedIn profile is known as a professional document.

Therefore, if your resume has a nickname or a name you go by in quotation marks between your first and last name (i.e., John "Johnny" Doe), it should look like that on your LinkedIn profile. Additionally, if you put an acronym after your name for a degree you've earned on your resume, include it on your LinkedIn profile (i.e., Jane Doe, RN). Speaking of accreditations, if you have a lot of them, just choose the top three. There will be a place later on to talk about the rest.

Hello, gorgeous!"

— Fanny Brice (Barbara Streisand) in "Funny Girl"

Select a Profile Picture Tailored to Your Professional Goals

Considering that first impressions are everything, then the photo you choose for your LinkedIn profile is of utmost importance. Most career coaches recommend a professional photographer. I'm not most career coaches, though. I say, "It depends."


If the position you seek is a professional, office-type, or executive position, then you should hire a professional photographer. If a professional photographer isn't in the budget, then have a friend take a picture of you. Instruct them how you want to be framed in the photo and make sure there's no weird background stuff to detract from the image. Alternatively, you can choose the best picture of yourself there is just make sure it is a picture of you and you alone. Don't crop someone else out of it or leave a levitating arm dangling around your shoulder.


Well, "Hello, Gorgeous!" If you are going into a field that requires you to be creative, then be creative with your profile photo. Just remember to keep the creativity of your profile photo slightly muted so that it's not overwhelmingly distracting. You don't want hiring managers trying to figure out what's going on in the photo when they should really be reading your profile.


It is my opinion that a great profile photo for you would be one in which you are outdoors or even in the place you work. I know some locations have rules against cell phones or personal items being present during working hours, so the outdoors picture would suit you best. There's a vast difference between people who work indoors and people who work outdoors. Use your first impression to demonstrate that you're not afraid of being outside.

Discussing profile photos can go on and on. The general idea is to make your profile photo match what you do in the best way you can. Make sure it's clean, not overly distracting, and that it's only you in the picture. The recommended size for a photo uploaded to LinkedIn is 400x400 pixels. LinkedIn does say that it's okay to upload a larger photo as long as it's square and doesn't exceed 8MB of 4320x7680 pixels.


Craft a Catchy Headline

Headlines grab our attention. They make us want to read what's in the article. Sometimes, though, the headline tells us all we need to know. This is the same with your LinkedIn headline. You want it to grab their attention and make them read, you do not want them to read it and move on because then you've just lost.

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I am on LinkedIn constantly and see headlines that simply say, "Team Leader at ABC Company." My first thought is, "good for you." Now, if I'm thinking that, what do you think a hiring manager who scrolls through hundreds of profiles every day thinks? You have to write a headline that makes them stop. You want them to think, "Wait . . . what?!" That will make them read your profile.

LinkedIn allows 120 characters for your headline, including spaces. Utilize this space to say who you are by listing your target Job Title and then a short blurb that says how you do what you do. A couple of examples of the headlines I've written for clients:

  • "Cunning entrepreneurial advisor, trade expert, and venture capitalist with a track record for ethical success."
  • "ICAT system and healthcare project manager working toward technological innovation and improved patient care."

Use that 120 characters to your advantage. It is valuable real estate that gives your LinkedIn profile curb appeal.

Showcase Your Creativity in Your Professional Summary

The professional summary is the next section on which to spend a bit of time. Generally, a professional summary on a resume is written in a very professional (some might say "stuffy") tone. With LinkedIn, it's a little different. The summary is a great place to showcase your wittiness and creativity. Use your voice in a way that invites open dialogue from colleagues, recruiters, and prospective employers.

2000 Characters to Go

Two thousand characters may sound like a lot, but it really isn't. It's only about 300 words. By the time you write about what you do, how you do it, and why you do it, you'll notice that you're probably running out of available characters. My favorite format for a summary involves starting with a quote that's relevant to your field. For example, I once wrote a profile for a regional manager in the field of sports memorabilia. I started his profile with a quote by Vince Lombardi.


What Do You Know and How Do You Know It?

Julius Caesar said, "Experience is the teacher of all things." Prospective employers believe the same thing. In fact, I don't think there is a single job description out there that is missing the line indicating how many years of experience you need to be qualified for their position. So, how do you reflect on what you've learned through experience? You pay close attention to detail in your "Work Experience" section and highlight achievements.

Why Should You Highlight Achievements?

Frankly, the honest . . . in your face answer is that no one cares what you were supposed to do (i.e., were responsible for) at your previous job. They care about what you actually did that made the place you were at better. In fact, I'd advise you to delete the phrase "was responsible for" from your vocabulary.

Also, it is supremely important to spell out acronyms. In fact, I'd spell out ones that you know everyone knows. I recently spelled out Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for someone's resume. Leave nothing for them to wonder about because if they're trying to figure out what that acronym means, they're not reading your profile.

LinkedIn's Default

Be careful when you type a new experience into your "Experience" section. LinkedIn has a default setting to set the job title and company name as the headline for your profile. Take it from me, it is quite frustrating to have to recreate your headline once LinkedIn replaces it with your current job title and company name. In the box where you type add your experience, just beneath the dates of employment, you'll see a checkbox that says, "Update my headline" be sure to UNcheck that box.

Add Media

Have you won an award, been given a certificate of some sort that recognizes some great accomplishment, or do you have an online portfolio? Just beneath the description box, you'll notice that LinkedIn provides you the opportunity to upload or link to media (external documents, photos, sites, videos, presentations).

The list of acceptable formats is pretty big and includes everything from PDF and DOC(X) to ODP and PPT to PNG and GIF. They also allow for the files to be rather large, up to 300MB at 120MP.


Where Did You Go to School?

You'd think the "Education" section would be pretty self-explanatory; you'd be right. Of course, you should follow the tenet that says to start with your most recent education and work backward. DO NOT include high school. As previously mentioned, spell out acronyms, this goes for the name of your school AND your degree. So, a BS from NSU should be a bachelor of science from Northwestern State University.

But, I Didn't Go to College

That's OK. None of the fields are required and you can type out the name of the school. As you type the name of your school, you'll notice that LinkedIn tries to auto-populate the field. If you went to Bob's School of Tire Tread, LinkedIn may not recognize it to populate it, but it will still let you type it out.


Include Skills, and Try to Get Endorsements and Recommendations

Raise your hand if you've heard that employers only take about six seconds to determine whether to read or toss a resume. Oops, I can't see if you raised your hand. The online world moves much faster. That is one of the reasons the "Skills" section of your LinkedIn profile is so important. Once a recruiter or prospective employer has decided to stop at your profile after scrolling through hundreds of profiles, they scroll right to that "Skills" section to see if you're worth further reading. Also, those skills are searchable on Google.

50 Skills

LinkedIn allows up to 50 skills and there are two things you'll notice: 1. As you type a skill in the box, LinkedIn will populate some suggestions and 2. LinkedIn will give you a list of "Suggested skills based off your profile." While you want to populate hard skills, don't forget about those soft skills and technical skills such as time management, team building, leadership, CRM's, MS Office, G-Suite as these highlight important criteria to hiring managers, too.

Endorsements and Recommendations

Recommendations and Endorsements can really make your profile pop. It's like walking into an interview and having some letters of recommendation from previous employers. Endorsements are fairly easy to get. You type in a list of skills and then simply ask colleagues to click the button. Just remember to return the favor. The more endorsements you have, the higher you will rank in search results. So, they're very much worth asking for.

Recommendations are a little tougher to secure. A recommendation isn't something people give by just clicking a button. They have to actually take a minute and type something out. Fortunately, though, LinkedIn has made it quite easy to ask for recommendations. You simply scroll down to the "Recommendations" section and click to "ask for a recommendation" then you type in the name of the person(s) from whom you'd like to ask for a recommendation. It'll show up on your profile just below the "Skills" list.


Personalize Your URL

Inevitably, LinkedIn will add a string of numbers to the end of the URL to your profile making your address appear like this: Who wants that?! You can personalize the URL to your profile! Simply click the link to "Edit public profile and URL" and then type what you'd like it to be. To maximize professionalism, I'd recommend some version of your name. If you have a super popular name (John Smith, for example), it may become difficult to customize using just your name. In that case, try adding your middle initial or use some type of abbreviation for your location or even your industry (i.e., John Smith CPA). Now your LinkedIn profile address will be Ah, much better!


"Career Interests"—Let Potential Employers Know You're Looking for Work!

Now that your profile is "All-Star," how do you let prospective employers know you're looking for a career? Well, my friends, we've come to the fun part of our evening. The part where all the hard work will pay off!

Career Interests

If you click on the section entitled "Career Interests," you have the opportunity to drop a note to recruiters to show them you're interested in a new career opportunity. You detail whether you're casually looking, actively applying, or not looking, but open to offers. There is an option to show that you're not open to offers, but if you're there turning this section ON, I can't imagine a reason you'd choose that option.

After that, you start typing in job titles you'd be interested in exploring. This is going to work a lot like the "Skills" section. You will begin to type something, and LinkedIn will populate suggestions so go a little slow here and pay attention to the suggestions because you may just see something you would've otherwise thought about.

Privacy Settings

You'll notice in the top right-hand corner of the "Career Interests" box an option for privacy settings. It's a really good idea to explore these settings, especially if you're trying to find employment but you don't want your current employer to know.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Marsha Hebert

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